Book Review: Against Empathy

Against Empathy is a book about the negative effects of trying to feel what other people feel by Canadian American psychology professor Paul Bloom. The book makes the case that concern and compassion function better in the absence of empathy. It also makes the case that empathy is a driving force behind much of the cruelty and irrationality in the world. The book is divided into six chapters and two shorter interludes, each of which explores a different aspect of empathy.

Bloom begins by defining his terms and laying out the case he intends to make over the whole book and in each chapter, as any good academic would. Adherence to definitions for the purpose of avoiding confusion is done well throughout the book, and is especially necessary when a word as widely defined and misused as empathy is in play. Rather than arguing in favor of psychopathy, Bloom advocates thinking with our heads rather than our hearts so as to reach a more consistent and helpful morality. Nor does he argue that empathy is completely bad; only that it does more harm than good.

The first chapter makes the distinction between cognitive empathy (recognizing another person’s feelings without feeling them oneself) and emotional empathy (experiencing the world as one thinks that someone else does). The shortcomings of the latter are the primary focus of the book, namely that empathy can lead to ignoring unidentifiable victims, denigrating logical choices that have superior results, letting our biases lead us astray, overrating present costs versus future costs, and sending unnecessary aid. The chapter ends with responses to objections raised by Bloom’s colleagues during the writing of the book.

In the second chapter, Bloom explores the neuroscientific aspects of empathy, including mirror neurons, the role of preconceptions of other people, and the difference between understanding and feeling. The difference between cognitive empathy and emotional empathy is important here, and it can be detected in fMRI scans. Bloom then discusses how empathy is currently measured, as well as the shortfalls of such methods.

The failures of empathy in the pursuit of virtue are the primary subject of the third chapter. These failures occur because empathy works as a spotlight, illuminating some problems and leaving the rest in the dark. This causes people to choose to help suffering individuals instead of suffering masses, to care less about the problems of a perceived out-group, or to engage in high-time-preference thinking. There is also the matter that one person can never truly feel what another person feels because one person does not have another person’s aggregate experience. In short, empathy interferes with a rational assessment of how to make the world better. Bloom concludes the chapter by praising economists for avoiding empathy in their analyses.

Next comes a half-chapter-length interlude about empathy and politics, which deserves more attention than it gets here. Bloom correctly states that empathy is not a useful measure of where one falls on a map of political views, but says little about libertarianism and nothing about anarchist or reactionary thought. The shortsightedness discussed earlier leads to incorrect long-term policy decisions, and empathy can lead judges to take decisions contrary to the letter of the law.

The fourth chapter is about the relationship between empathy and intimacy. Bloom argues that empathy runs counter to the special nature of a close interpersonal relationship, instead leading one to treat one’s family no better than strangers. He mentions an interesting hypothetical case of a pathologically empathetic person and shows how psychologically harmful this condition can be. It is interesting that there is no clinical name for this condition. Next, Bloom explores the difference between cognitive empathy and emotional empathy in Buddhist philosophy, which contains a similar distinction and a similar recommendation about embracing cognitive empathy while rejecting emotional empathy. After this, the difficulties that doctors may encounter if they are distracted by emotional empathy are discussed, as well as the negative effects that receiving emotional empathy can have on patients. Then, Bloom makes important distinctions between having useful past experiences, caring about people without using empathy, and having emotional empathy in the present. The positive role of empathy in apologizing for misdeeds is examined, and Bloom has no counterargument on this point.

The second interlude considers empathy’s ability to serve as a foundation for morality, especially from the beginning of life. Bloom considers that empathy may be foundational for young children but harmful for adults, much like human breast milk. He considers that selfishness may motivate kind acts, but finds the explanation wanting on the grounds of misunderstanding both natural selection and psychology. The topic is left as an open question, but the evidence discussed suggests that even young children are capable of caring without internalizing another person’s feelings.

In the fifth chapter, Bloom explores how violence and cruelty are linked to empathy. In particular, he discusses how empathy can lead people to commit cruel and violent acts, especially toward people who have themselves committed atrocities. Bloom correctly posits that violence will always be with us, as some problems are insoluble without it. Here, the spotlight nature of empathy is seen to maximize the impact of victimhood while minimizing the impact of perpetration, which leads to escalations of hostilities between nations and blood feuds between families. Empathy can lead people to falsely believe that they are doing good deeds when they are being cruel and violent. It can also lead wartime leaders to fail to recognize sacrifices that must be made to win the war. Next, Bloom looks at the nature of psychopaths and the role that dehumanization plays in atrocities. He shows that these are concerns are different from concerns about empathy. He ends the chapter by comparing empathy to anger, and finding both to be unworthy of removal from a person’s psyche, but in need of subordination to rational deliberation.

The final chapter addresses the role of reason and defends it against several attacks. After all, an argument that presupposes rationality can be undermined by a case that people are fundamentally irrational. This chapter could have been improved by including the discourse ethics of Jürgen Habermas or Hans-Hermann Hoppe, as it would have added a strong defense of objective morality. Like so many controversial academics who encounter social justice warriors, Bloom was told to check his privilege, which he rightly dismisses as nonsensical, though “SJWs are the real bigots” is not a sufficiently sharp response. He addresses the concern that regardless of the virtues of reason, humans are incompetent at it. But this can be shrugged off by noting that reason is objective and thus not subject to individual competency. The arguments in favor of determinism lead to performative contradictions if taken to their logical conclusions, but Bloom does not attack them in this fashion. A second attack on reason comes from psychological studies that show how people can be subconsciously influenced, but to know this is to know to take corrective steps to eliminate the problem. Finally, Bloom makes the case for rationality by discussing the strong correlation between high IQ and success, as well as the correlation between self-control and success. He briefly returns to politics to note the irrationality there, but concludes that this is due to the political systems rather than the participants themselves. Bloom ends the book by conceding that empathy can have good results, but that this is the exception and not the rule.

In a sense, Bloom does not go far enough. The concept of conspicuous compassion is barely mentioned, and there are some cases in which psychopathy can be used for beneficial results. The final chapter is in need of stronger logical cases against Bloom’s critics. Even so, Against Empathy is thought-provoking and much-needed to stem a tide of books that take too bright a view of empathy.

Rating: 4.5/5

Tucker, Spencer, Libertarianism, and Fascism

On February 18, white nationalist and alt-right leader Richard Spencer was present in the bar of the Marriott hotel that hosted the International Students For Liberty conference. He was invited by the Hans-Hermann Hoppe Caucus, a group of right-libertarians with no official affiliation with SFL. A sign and the claims of several Hoppe Caucus members made it seem as though Spencer was an official part of the event, although he was not.

“We started the Hoppe Caucus with just a small group of people to spread diversity of conversation into the libertarian movement,” said Mitchell Steffen, founding member of the Hoppe Caucus. “We don’t agree with what Spencer believes in a lot of ways, but we still wanted to hear his point of view.”

For the better part of an hour, he and a small gathering of supporters, other listeners, and some SFL attendees engaged in political conversation in a peaceful and mostly quiet manner. Things got more raucous over time, then Jeffrey Tucker and others arrived to loudly denounce Spencer. Tucker left the scene, but those who came with him kept yelling, prompting hotel security to ask the entire crowd at the bar to leave. Spencer requested an escort out by hotel security, which they provided.

“It was really unfortunate how it turned out,” Steffen said. “I think the Hoppe Caucus did a good job of pushing the envelope and exposing hypocrisy though. Spencer’s ideas should be challenged with better libertarian ideas. He should not be bullied.”

The Exchange

First, let us analyze the exchange between Tucker and Spencer, transcribed below from the source video:

“JEFFREY TUCKER: I think fascists are not welcome at an anti-fascist conference! Not welcome! Students For Liberty is about human dignity, about liberty for all and not about fascism and that is what that man represents! You know the only reason you’re here is because of public accommodation laws; otherwise you’d be thrown out immediately, buddy.
RICHARD SPENCER: Oh, its Jeffrey Tucker! (unintelligible)
JT: (unintelligible) Yeah, this hotel, because you’re devaluing this property, my friend.
RS: Oh, really? By you, Jeffrey? I’m not sure you could throw out a fly, little Jeffrey. Hey Jeffrey, I used to read those articles by you, Jeffrey.
JT: Look, you don’t belong here. You absolutely don’t belong.
RS: Oh, I don’t belong here? What?
JT: You know why? Because we stand for liberty.
RS: Do you support the deep state, dude? That’s awesome.
JT: You stand for fascism, and you don’t belong here. Students For Liberty opposes everything that you stand for, buddy.
RS: You tweeted that you support the deep state over Trump. I think you might be a little fascist there, little Jeffrey.
JT: You are a troll. You can’t organize your own conference, so you come to our conference.
RS: That’s not an argument.
JT: You know the last time you tried, you had a bunch of losers in a room making Nazi salutes. That’s what happened at yours.
RS: That’s not an argument.
JT: So you come to our conference and troll us. If you were on Twitter right now, we’d all block you.
RS: I was invited by people here to come speak to them, Jeffrey.
JT: You are a liar! You are a liar! Fascists are liars! (exits)”

Inaccuracies

First, despite potentially misleading statements and signage made by the Hoppe Caucus, Spencer was not technically at the conference. He never went inside the part of the building reserved for the conference that required paid admission, but rather remained in a bar outside which was not reserved for ISFLC participants. Nor did Spencer himself claim to be part of the conference. Tucker is free to voice his opinion that fascists are not welcome at an anti-fascist conference, and although he does not officially speak for SFL, SFL released a statement in support of Tucker’s actions. However, the wisdom of such a position is questionable. The reaction of Tucker and his ilk is precisely why the alt-right is growing. Neutral observers see a fascist engaged in rational discussion while leftists angrily shout him down and cause a disturbance that gets the venue’s security involved, thus making the fascist seem reasonable by comparison.

Tucker then said that SFL is about human dignity, whatever that may mean, which means that it is not really about libertarianism. Libertarianism is a philosophical position on what constitutes the acceptable use of force. It says that initiating the use of force is never moral, but responding to an initiation of force with defensive force is always moral. Libertarianism says nothing about human dignity one way or another. In a libertarian social order, those who overindulge in vices, engage in criminal behaviors, and/or refuse to be productive people could very well find themselves living a life without dignity, especially if their particular community has a more socially Darwinian ethos. To be fair, Spencer is in the wrong here as well; while peaceful methods could partially achieve his stated goals, many of his goals could only be fully achieved by initiating the use of force.

Tucker claimed that Spencer would be thrown out if not for public accommodation laws and was devaluing the hotel’s property. It is impossible to know whether this is so because it is a counterfactual, but the fact that Spencer has been there several times beforehand without incident suggests otherwise. Ironically, Tucker used the pragmatic libertarian case against open borders to justify his outburst. Open state borders are a form of public accommodation, in that they require the force of government to prevent people from using their freedom of association and private property rights to exclude other people. He cannot be unaware of this inconsistency at this point, so we may reasonably conclude that Tucker is being malicious rather than simply ignorant. What is known is that chanting obscenities, as people accompanying Tucker did, diminishes the quality of experience for bystanders, thus devaluing the hotel’s property.

As an aside, one must wonder if Tucker would be so quick to denounce a similar figure who is of a protected class, such as a member of the Hotep movement, which is in many ways the black counterpart of the white nationalist alt-right. Perhaps inviting someone like Ali Shakur would be a more effective move at ISFLC 2018 than inviting Spencer. Then we could see whether Tucker would be consistent or would fear the social justice warriors around him calling him racist.

Spencer asked if Tucker supports the deep state over Trump, and suggested Tucker might be a bit fascist for doing so. This referred to a February 15 article by Tucker, arguing that however bad the establishment may be, Trump could be worse. While his analysis in that article is suspect, the only hint of fascism from Tucker is in his reaction to Spencer’s presence.

Libertarianism and Fascism

Tucker claimed that SFL stands for liberty while Spencer stands for fascism, and thus Spencer did not belong there. Let us examine the relationship between libertarianism and fascism, for there has long been a link between the two. Ludwig von Mises wrote favorably of fascism in 1927, saying,

“It cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has, for the moment, saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history. But though its policy has brought salvation for the moment, it is not of the kind which could promise continued success. Fascism was an emergency makeshift. To view it as something more would be a fatal error.”

Mises was prescient on the matter of how fascism in particular and reaction in general arises. There is no need to fix that which is unbroken, so a healthy social order will contain nothing to the right of conservatism, meaning the desire to maintain the status quo. Reactionary thought arises when a society makes a mistake and the social order becomes unhealthy, and fascism in particular arises as a response either to the threat of a communist takeover or to the suffering caused by socialism. Libertarianism and reaction are pieces of a whole, and libertarianism and fascism can work together in some circumstances because they share the common enemies of democracy, socialism, and communism. There is a danger here, as Mises would learn the hard way when fascists forced him out of his academic position in Vienna and away to America, but history clearly demonstrates that as bad as fascism can be, communism and socialism wreak more havoc.

The 1973 Chilean coup d’état led to another confluence between libertarianism and fascism. Before Augusto Pinochet took power, Chile was suffering from 140 percent annual inflation and contracting GDP under Marxist leadership. Pinochet was willing to listen to Milton Friedman’s students, and although the Chicago School of Economics is not as libertarian in disposition as the Austrian School, this led to an important series of market reforms and improvements in the mid-1970s and the 1980s known as the Miracle of Chile. These policies were continued after Pinochet’s rule ended in 1990, and the percentage of people living in poverty was reduced from 48 percent to 20 percent from 1988 to 2000. In 2010, Chile was the first South American nation to win membership in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, an organization restricted to the world’s richest countries.

In more theoretical terms, if a private property owner under libertarian standards wishes to administer his estate after the form of a fascist dictatorship, it is his right to do so. Being the owner of the property means that he has a right to exclusive control over it, including its governance structure. However, he cannot force people to stay, so a libertarian fascist will have to be far less oppressive than statist fascists in order to keep his regime populated. This kind of governance, which offers people no voice and free exit, has proven best at limiting state power throughout history. It would also be best for limiting the tyranny of the private property owner that so concerns critics of libertarianism. This sort of libertarian fascism is not what Spencer advocates, but Tucker’s claim that fascism is necessarily opposed to libertarianism is both logically false and contradicted by the historical case of Pinochet’s Chile.

Trolling, Heiling, Blocking, Lying

Tucker claimed that Spencer came to ISFLC because he could not organize his own conference, then contradicted himself by referencing Spencer’s National Policy Institute Conference in November 2016 at which Spencer said, “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!,” and several people in the audience responded with Nazi-style salutes. Though Spencer’s conference was much smaller (275 attendees versus 1,500+ attendees), Tucker’s claim is clearly false.

Tucker accused Spencer of being a troll and of lying about being invited to the venue. Spencer was not lying about being invited, as the Hoppe Caucus invited him and Spencer never went into the part of the building reserved for ISFLC where he was not invited. Whether Spencer is a troll or not is mostly a matter of opinion. He is not the most informed person, having been caught in numerous errors of fact throughout the years, but he was engaging in a peaceful discourse. Being offended was a choice made by Tucker and his ilk because Spencer was attracting enough attention to make the SFL establishment uncomfortable. It is telling that Tucker and company would resort to causing a disturbance and involving security forces because his side appeared to be losing in the marketplace of ideas that night.

Tucker said that if the confrontation had occurred on social media rather than in the physical world, then all ISFLC attendees would block him. This is another untestable counterfactual, but judging by the amount of people engaging with Spencer, Tucker’s claim stretches credibility.

Aftermath

The Hoppe Caucus released a statement on their Facebook page, saying,

“The Hoppe Caucus hosted Richard Spencer at ISFLC not because we were trying to start some kind of commotion, but rather an important dialogue. Hans-Hermann Hoppe invited him to his own Property and Freedom Society Conference several years ago for that very reason. After all, event organizers thought it would be a good idea to have leftists and even full-blown communists at the event as apart of the ‘big tent.’ So why not discuss the alternative right? Why not enlarge the tent a little bit further? Furthermore, who gets to define the tent? Is it the big money funders? Is it the oligarchs? Is it is the intellectual elite? Or is it the rank-and-file libertarians? These are all questions we should be pondering considering what happened this weekend.”

SFL has declared that “[t]hose responsible for the disruption have been identified, and are no longer welcome at Students For Liberty events.” Again, this is their right, but Spencer was not inside the event proper and attempting to silence Spencer and the Hoppe Caucus only makes them look like winners of the debate to a neutral observer.

Robby Soave demonstrated an ignorance of the facts of the case and libertarian principles, as well as political autism concerning group dynamics in his write-up of the matter. This would not be so notable, except that media outlets from Salon to The Blaze ran with his deeply flawed narrative. But this is to be expected, as accepting a narrative from someone else is easier than researching and thinking for oneself.

Overall, this incident illustrates why the libertarian moment seems to have passed and the alt-right movement continues to grow. Regardless of what one may think of Tucker, Spencer, fascism, or libertarianism, the tactics employed by Tucker and his ilk ensured that Spencer and fascism emerged victorious while the flawed application of libertarian ideas by those who either do not understand them or intentionally misuse them harmed the cause of liberty.

A Comprehensive Strategy Against Antifa

In recent months, the violent far-left group known as Antifa has grown from an occasional nuisance that rarely affected anyone other than neo-Nazis into a serious threat to anyone who is politically right of center and/or libertarian who wishes to speak in a public venue. Their tactics have escalated from peaceful counter-demonstrations to violent attacks upon people and property. The latest incidents at the presidential inauguration, University of California-Berkeley, and New York University clearly show that this trend cannot be allowed to continue.

As such, it is necessary to create a comprehensive strategy to defeat this group. This plan contains eighteen measures, some of which can be used by ordinary citizens, some of which involve the state, and some of which can be used by either. If these suggestions are implemented, then the Antifa threat should be dealt with and eliminated in short order. Without further ado, let us begin.

1. Stop giving in to their demands. When a behavior is rewarded, those who engage in that behavior will do so more frequently, and other people will emulate that behavior in search of their own reward. This means that public universities and other speaking venues which kowtow to pressure from Antifa must stop doing so. If Antifa’s behavior no longer results in platform denial to their political rivals, then they will have less incentive to engage in it. This measure can be aided by making the funding of taxpayer-supported institutions contingent on defying efforts to silence speech in such venues.

2. Fight fire with fire. When a behavior is punished, those who engage in that behavior will do so less frequently, and other people will avoid emulating that behavior for fear of being punished themselves. The reason that Antifa members continue to assault people and destroy property is because they can; they face far too little defensive violence in response to their aggression. This must change. The most effective way to make a bully stop is to bloody his nose. Note that many of their fold are physically small and weak with little or no combat experience. This will make the impact of finally meeting physical resistance all the more effective.

It would be best for right-wing citizens to take to the streets in order to violently suppress and physically remove Antifa themselves, but leaving this to police officers or National Guard troops is better than nothing. It may be necessary to let the state handle this in places where it has legally disarmed good people, but taking an active role wherever one can will defeat Antifa more quickly and help to restore the vital role of the militia in society.

3. Stop discouraging defensive violence. The maintenance of liberty requires the ability to bring overwhelming defensive violence to bear against aggressors. It is time for conservatives, reactionaries, and libertarians to stop denouncing people who state this obvious fact. That such self-defeating behavior has been happening in right-wing circles for years is one reason why Antifa has gotten away with so much of what they have done thus far.

4. Hire private security. This is already being done by some of Antifa’s targets, but it needs to be done by all. Again, many members of Antifa lack the size and strength to engage their opponents in honorable combat. Thus, having private security present to watch for sucker punching cowards and other such vermin can blunt much of Antifa’s ability to project power.

5. Go after members of Antifa by talking to their employers. This is a favorite tactic of Antifa in particular and social justice warriors in general. They will accuse a person of racism, sexism, or some other form of bigotry, often with no regard for merit, then contact their employers to get them in trouble. Their intention is to shame employers into firing their political rivals, or to disrupt businesses that refuse to bow to their pressure. Because they routinely do this to people, they have no right to complain when it is done to them. Turnabout is fair play, and it is time to strike.

6. Hack their websites and other online presences. This is already being done, but more is needed. Their online presence is an important method by which they recruit, organize, and secure funding. This must be shut down to arrest their growth and hinder their operations. Again, turnabout is fair play; Antifa sympathizers regularly try to hack right-wing websites and silence right-wing speech.

7. Infiltrate Antifa to gather intelligence and spread misinformation within. This is standard procedure for government agencies in taking down a criminal organization. The extent to which such operations are underway, if at all, are not publicly known. This needs to be done so that Antifa’s efforts can be blunted and its key personalities arrested. Although this tactic could be used to perpetrate false flag operations in their name, it is best not to do so, as this could backfire. The truth about Antifa is bad enough; there is no need to make up lies about them.

8. Call them what they are: rioters and terrorists, not protesters. The establishment media frequently refers to Antifa as protesters, regardless of their conduct. As Confucius said, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper names.” We must hold the lying press to account and correct the record whenever and wherever possible. Antifa are not mere protesters; they are rioters and terrorists.

9. Remove and/or punish police commanders who give stand-down orders against Antifa. For the state to monopolize law and order within its territory is a travesty. For it to monopolize these services and then refuse to provide them is far worse. Anyone who is in command of police officers who are supposed to defend the public against Antifa’s crimes and tells those officers to stand down is not only in dereliction of duty, but is actively aiding the enemy. These administrators must be removed, and ideally, subjected to criminal charges as well.

10. Declare Antifa a domestic terrorist organization. The simplest definition of terrorism that covers all instances of it is that it is the use of violence, threats, fear, and intimidation against innocent people for the purpose of achieving political or social goals. Antifa operates by these methods, has various local chapters throughout the United States, and is organized, so the label of domestic terrorist organization clearly fits. This would allow for federal funding to be allocated specifically for combating Antifa, as well as the involvement of the Department of Homeland Security, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and other such agencies.

At this point, libertarians may protest that the United States government also meets the above definition of a terrorist organization, and they are not wrong about that. But they would be well-advised to check their autism and deal with the context of the situation. One can take the view that the state must be eliminated in the long-term while using it for our own purposes now. Setting one enemy of liberty against another is a wise strategy, and as bad as the United States government can be, allowing Antifa to grow and gain political power would be far worse.

11. Ban black bloc tactics. It is already illegal in many places to wear masks in public, but this should be specifically banned everywhere within the context of riots and other violent demonstrations. It is important to be able to identify Antifa activists for the purpose of punishing them properly, and laws against the public wearing of masks can be used to arrest Antifa members who are not violating any other statutes at the time. Perhaps they cannot be held for long or convicted of anything, but it will disrupt their activities.

12. Charge rioters with felonies. This has already happened to many rioters from the presidential inauguration, but felony rioting charges against Antifa and similar groups need to become more widespread. Lengthy prison terms and hefty fines will discourage people from involvement with Antifa while sidelining current activists and confiscating funds which would otherwise be used by Antifa. Ideally, such fines would be payable into a fund that would reimburse private property owners for damages caused by Antifa members.

13. Charge anyone who aids Antifa in any way. With Antifa declared a domestic terrorist organization, giving them aid, funding, and/or training would constitute the criminal offense of providing material support to terrorists. Such charges need not be limited to US residents; for example, George Soros is known to have provided funding to Antifa and other violent groups through his Tides Foundation. Extradition of foreign nationals to the United States to face charges would be a necessary part of this measure.

14. Freeze their funds. With Antifa declared a domestic terrorist organization, freezing Antifa-related bank accounts to shut down their financial resources should be a simple matter. This will not halt local activities, but it will hinder their ability to move professional rioters across the nation and conduct other operations which go beyond the local grassroots.

15. Send illegal aliens involved with Antifa to Guantanamo Bay. This measure is probably not necessary, but it would send a clear message that Antifa will not be allowed to continue its behavior. It could also bring out Antifa sympathizers who are on the fence about whether to actively participate by enraging and triggering them sufficiently to bring them out. Conversely, it could serve as an extreme measure which is used in the short-term in the hope of having to use fewer measures in the long-term. The legal rationale for this measure is that a foreign national who is in the United States and involved in terrorism may be treated as an unlawful combatant.

16. Eliminate gun-free zones. The vast majority of Antifa activity has occurred in gun-free zones or places in which carrying rights are restricted to some degree. By eliminating gun-free zones, the state can ensure that more citizens are capable of defending themselves from aggressors like Antifa. This will also lessen the burden on government security forces.

17. Privatize public property. An underlying problem of which the surge in left-wing political violence is a symptom is the existence of state-occupied property. No one truly owns such property because no person exercises exclusive control over it. This leaves it open not only to use by groups of people who are at cross purposes with each other, but to an occupation by one group for the purpose of denying access to another group. If all property were privately owned, then it would be clear that whenever Antifa attempt to shut down a venue by occupying the premises, they are trespassing. This would make physically removing them a less ambiguous matter.

18. Above all, stop trying to be better than the enemy and focus on defeating the enemy. There is no need to alter strategy, virtue signal, or make any other effort to be better than Antifa. That they are violent criminals and we seek to defend against them means that we already are better than them. Let us do what is necessary to defeat Antifa, as detailed in the previous seventeen measures, and leave worries about improving ourselves until after this is done. Remember, this is a war, and in war, nothing is more honorable than victory.

The Not-So-Current Year: 2016 In Review

Though the specific demarcation of the passage from one year into another is a rather arbitrary social construct, it does provide a useful annual period for self-examination and remembrance. Now that 2016 has entered the history books, let us take a look back at a year’s worth of essays and review the not-so-current year.

We begin, of course, with last year’s article of the same kind. Some articles in this list are sequels to articles in that list. Aside from that, we may move on.

My first article proper of 2016 was A Case Against the Nineteenth Amendment. It was intended to come out before the New Year, but I was not satisfied with it until January 3. If I were to rewrite this article, I would say more about biological differences between the sexes and why these make the entrance of women into democratic politics a danger to the stability and sustainability of a society. I took down the First Amendment later in the year.

The Bundy standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Preserve began. I made nine observations on the event. Their later acquittal on several felony charges after the standoff ended in what was essentially an instance of jury nullification was cause for celebration.

As usual, leftists called for more gun restrictions and an end to gun violence without seeing that the former would both cause and be enforced by gun violence or the threat thereof. Rather than take the usual path of reductio ad absurdum, I argued the sharper point that gun deaths can be a good thing. This did not sit well with the editors at Examiner.com, who pulled the article. Given a long and contentious history with the site, I decided to part ways with them and start my own site. This proved to be a wise choice, as Examiner gave up the ghost less than six months later, with all content disappearing into the aether. My next task was to choose a name for the site and explain its meaning.

Christopher Cantwell argued the libertarian case for Donald Trump, and I gave him some pushback. Shortly afterward, Rand Paul suspended his campaign, and I wrote a list of observations on the event.

‘No victim means no crime’ is a common saying among libertarians, but an altogether too reductionist one. I explained why.

A Russian film crew flew a drone over the city of Homs and recorded the aftermath of Assad’s forces besieging the city. I rarely get emotional, but seeing the wanton destruction was quite triggering for me. Aleppo was conquered later in the year, and I wrote a list of observations on the event.

I decided to take an educated guess at whether Ron Paul could have defeated Barack Obama if he had been the Republican nominee in 2012. I believe he would have done so easily.

Twitter decided to give in to government and social justice warrior requests to censor their enemies. Unsurprisingly, this tanked their stock prices. I proposed several remedies for the situation, and Twitter has of course used none of them.

Jason Brennan published an article arguing that arguments made by libertarians against open borders have disturbing implications that said libertarians almost never address, so I addressed them and showed on a point-by-point basis that some such implications are not only not so scary, but are actually vitally important to the maintenance of a libertarian social order.

Charlotte City Council approved an expansion of its anti-discrimination ordinance to include transgender people, which I denounced as a violation of private property, freedom of association, public safety, and freedom of religion. Governor Pat McCrory and the state legislature responded with House Bill 2, and the controversy has brewed for almost a year.

An author known as Mr. Underhill published an article arguing that violent revolution is not the appropriate method for achieving liberty. I took the opposite view, which led to a lengthy exchange of four more articles on my part and four more on his part. Following this exchange, I decided to write about how I choose who to debate and for how long, which made me realize that I had entertained Mr. Underhill for far too long. Later in the year, I covered political violence more generally to argue that we need more of it as well.

When examining the intellectual foundation for private property rights, I noticed an unexplored quirk which turned into an original proviso. A critique in the comments section led to another article defending the proviso.

Islamic terrorists attacked the airport and a subway station in Brussels, killing 31 people and injuring 300 others. I wrote a list of observations on the event.

Social justice warriors seem to have their own language which is distinct from both the dictionary definitions and the common understanding of words by most of the general population. I created a glossary to help normal people better understand SJW rhetoric.

Donald Trump suggested that women could be punished for getting an abortion, which outraged both sides of the mainstream abortion debate. I weighed in with a view which did the same.

Having addressed water ownership and pollution in two articles in 2015, I decided to lay out a libertarian theory on air ownership and pollution.

Puerto Rico reached new lows of fiscal irresponsibility, and I explained why it is best to cut them loose from the United States to become an independent country.

The rise of neoreaction and the alt-right has brought reactionary thought back to the forefront. I deemed my first attempt at examining its relationship to libertarianism to be inadequate, so I took a second stab at it. A Jeffrey Tucker article prompted a third effort, and I made a fourth effort later in the year in response to a pro-Trump neoreactionary article by Michael Perilloux.

Peter Weber published an opinion piece arguing that the institution of the American Presidency is being delegitimized, and that this is a dangerous direction. I argued that this is actually a welcome and even glorious development.

Having already explained my decisions about debating other authors, I wrote two more articles explaining my lack of profanity and lack of satirical content.

Many incorrect arguments concerning libertarianism and punishment began to appear, so I laid out a theory of libertarianism and punishment which utilized heavy doses of Rothbard.

The Libertarian Party held its nominating convention, and it was a disaster from beginning to end. The Republican convention was not much better in terms of substance.

Many people have noticed a correlation between weightlifting and libertarianism. I explored this correlation and found many reasons for it.

A terrorist who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State attacked a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., killing 49 people and injuring 53 others. I wrote a list of observations on the event, but missed a major point in doing so. Democracy is partly responsible for terrorism because it gives the common person a political voice, which makes them viable targets in a way that absolute monarchies or stateless societies would not.

When the Supreme Court ruled against Abigail Fisher in her anti-white racism case, the Internet cheered. I did not, realizing that the decision was a rejection of pure meritocracy.

Against all predictions, the vote to remove the United Kingdom from the European Union succeeded. I wrote a list of observations on the event.

In my most controversial article to date, I argued the most extreme position in the gun control debate: a private individual has a right to own nuclear weapons, and this would be beneficial for liberty. The troll brigades were out in force making typical leftist non-arguments, and I thank them for granting me a then-record in daily page views (and thus advertising money). A few did raise legitimate criticisms which will require an addendum to be written in the future.

As the major-party presidential nominations were secured, the establishment media wasted an inordinate amount of time engaging in speculation about who would be the running mate of each candidate. When discussing the potential benefits that each potential vice presidential pick could have, they neglected the aspect of assassination insurance.

Several recent problems with the criminal justice system demonstrated that government will not hold government accountable, and that a market alternative is required.

Five police officers were killed by a sniper in Dallas. I used the event to argue that those who kill government agents now are not cowardly murderers perpetrating senseless violence, but neither are they heroic or helpful to the cause of liberty.

A certain type of policy analysis exhibits many symptoms which are also found in high-functioning autistic people. This is more common among libertarians than among people of other political persuasions, so I decided to address the phenomenon.

A significant portion of the media coverage leading up to the Republican convention focused on the possibility of violence on the streets involving leftist protesters and rightist counter-protesters. This possibility went unrealized for reasons which were covered up by the establishment media.

Hillary Clinton said that she was “adamantly opposed to anyone bringing religion into our political process” and that it is “just absolutely wrong and unacceptable.” I argued the opposite case.

Gardening is an enjoyable hobby and a useful metaphor for many things, a libertarian social order included.

Trump hinted at the assassination of Clinton should she win and threaten gun rights. Predictably, every element of the establishment went apoplectic. I argued that political assassinations are ethically acceptable, though not usually the wisest practical move.

Since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, libertarians have had strong differences concerning how to engage with it. I explained the differences between their intentions and libertarian goals.

The 2016 Summer Olympics took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I wrote a list of observations on the event.

Whenever disasters impact an area in modern times, governments play a large role in the cleanup and recovery efforts. But this causes a behavioral problem in the population, not unlike that caused by the Pax Romana.

The Commission on Presidential Debates decided to exclude third-party candidates yet again. I made cases for peaceful and violent protest of this policy, and longed for a future candidate who might actually motivate people to engage in meaningful resistance.

Liberty Mutual created more advertisements that contain economic fallacies, so I did another round of debunking.

The establishment media tells us that every election is the most important of our lifetime. I proved that this cannot be the case, then psychoanalyzed the establishment media to explain why they keep repeating this, as if to convince themselves.

Argumentation ethics has been controversial since its introduction, but Roderick Long’s criticisms of it had gone unanswered. I remedied this state of affairs.

Rioters plagued Charlotte for three nights in response to a police shooting, which happened to involve a black officer and a black suspect. I wrote a list of observations on the event.

Congress voted to override President Obama’s veto of a bill that allows relatives of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for any role in the plot. Though some libertarians argued against the bill, I celebrated it for chipping away at the anti-libertarian idea of sovereign immunity, giving victims of American foreign policy a peaceful means of addressing their grievances, and possibly revealing clandestine activities to the American people about which they have a need to know.

Having heard libertarians argue in favor of every presidential candidate except Hillary Clinton, I decided to give it a shot. Only a bootlegger’s case was possible, and it was rather grim.

The idea of market failure is a widely believed misconception which has found widespread use in statist propaganda for the purpose of justifying government intervention in the private sector. I gave the idea perhaps its most thorough debunking to date.

In the last quarter of the year, I began reading more books, which resulted in several book reviews. I can strongly recommend The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing and Our Sister Republics; The West Point History of the Civil War somewhat less so. Good Guys With Guns, on the other hand, is a disaster.

The month before the election presented several opportunities for rebuttals. Milo Yiannopoulos demonstrated both a misunderstanding of and an enmity toward libertarianism, and I rebutted his assertions, which gained a surprising amount of attention. Jeffrey Tucker tried to defend democracy as a superior alternative to monarchy or political violence, and I showed why this is misguided. Penn Jillette argued in favor of vote swapping, and I argued against it.

Finally, the 2016 election came and went, which presented many observations to be made.

Black Friday is revered by most libertarians as a celebration of free-market capitalism. I updated my explanation of why this reverence is somewhat misplaced.

Finally, Otto Warmbier spent all of 2016 detained in North Korea. I made the unpopular case that he should be left there.

All in all, it was an interesting year full of occasions to make sharp libertarian arguments. May 2017 bring more of the same. Happy New Year!

The Glorious Delegitimizing of the American Presidency

On April 27, Peter Weber published an opinion piece in The Week arguing that the institution of the American Presidency is being delegitimized, and that this is a dangerous direction. Let us explore a case to the contrary; that this is happening, and far from being dangerous, this is actually a welcome and even glorious development.

Weber begins by noting that nastiness in American politics is nothing new, and was in many cases worse in the past. He then points to the effort to disqualify Obama, from the birther movement to the unusually strong opposition of congressional Republicans to his presidency. According to him, congressional Republicans treat Obama as though he is not truly the President. But while it is fair to note that Obama won election and re-election without the questionability of his predecessor in the 2000 election, one should also point out that congressional Republicans not only won many of theirs, but grew their ranks as a reaction to Obama’s presidency. While the birther claims against Obama’s birth certificate do not withstand scrutiny, questioning the veracity of a government official’s claims is not an unreasonable activity.

He notes that gridlock is stifling the basic functioning of government, such as the refusal to hold a hearing on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, but this has not been only a Republican game. When Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) was still the Majority Leader, the constitutional requirement of an annual federal budget went unfulfilled for six years and was only done once he lost his status to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Overall, the gridlock in government reflects polarization of the populace to some extent, as this is a democratic system to some extent. And is this really worse than a government which is able to make sweeping changes?

Weber laments that efforts to delegitimize this year’s candidates in the eyes of voters are already underway. While there have been attacks on Bernie Sanders for his age and status as an independent rather than a Democrat, and attacks on Ted Cruz (who has since suspended his campaign) for being born in Canada, most such efforts have been made against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Trump is denounced as a bigot, buffoon, bully, and quasi-fascist, while Clinton is denounced for foreign policy blunders and her role in the scandals of her husband’s presidency. The rise of the alt-right, the general ignorance of the public, and the overuse of the word ‘fascist’ make the charge less stinging than it would have been in the past, and it is unclear how much voters will care about the scandals of a presidency which took place two decades ago, but polls do show the front-runners of both major parties as having historically high negatives.

He points to the (entirely justifiable) contentions by Sanders and Trump that the primary processes are illegitimate and rigged to support the establishment and give them the presidential nominee of their choosing, then complains that all of the above spells out “a worrisome trend for the country.” What follows is an altogether too common acceptance of representative democracy as a form of government. Just because a multitude of people vote for a particular person to violently dominate society does not mean that said person should be allowed to do so, especially considering that more eligible voters stay home than vote for any particular candidate. “Our system of representative democracy,” like every other, has resulted in what Frederic Bastiat called legal plunder, in which the state causes the very problems that it is supposedly instituted to prevent, such as murder, robbery, extortion, kidnapping, and other violent crimes against persons and property. In other words, the very nature of the Presidency is to commit “high crimes and misdemeanors” under color of law and evade punishment for doing so.

So, let us not agree that whoever gets at least 270 electoral votes (if anyone does so), if a proper end to the state does not occur before January 2017, should have the same rights and responsibilities as the 44 presidents who came before (not that they did; the power of the Presidency has steadily grown over time). The office of the Presidency of the United States is a violent criminal institution. Its occupant has ultimate authority over the enforcers of the most powerful and dangerous regime in human history. The delegitimization of this office is not something to be condemned; it is something to be glorified.

Libertarianism and Reaction: Pieces of a Whole

The rise of the neoreactionary or alt-right movement has brought reactionary thought back to the forefront. Its relationship to libertarianism eludes many people, who either claim that the two are antithetical in some way or that libertarianism is best served by making other allegiances. My first attempt at examining this relationship was necessary but not sufficient, so let us complete the examination by looking at how libertarianism and reaction work together to form a complete worldview, as well as why combining each of them with anything else leads to disaster.

Definitions

In order to produce a meaningful analysis, it is necessary to begin by defining terms. This essay, like the first, will use the following definitions:

  1. Libertarianism: a philosophical position on what constitutes the morally acceptable use of force. Libertarianism says that initiating the use of force is never acceptable but defensive uses of force are always acceptable.

  2. Reaction: in the broadest sense, a political position that favors a return to some status quo ante which is believed to have possessed desirable characteristics which are absent from the status quo. In a narrower sense, reactionaries oppose liberal democracy, socialism, communism, egalitarianism, tabula rasa, and Whig historiography while supporting hierarchical structures, traditions, nativism, and skepticism.

It is good to know what both libertarianism and reaction are, but it is equally important to know what they are not. While many people claim that libertarianism is more than non-aggression and says something more about how people should interact, this is not true. While there are some obvious prerequisites like the three laws of thought and self-ownership, this is true of any coherent ideology. The critics who claim that libertarianism is not a complete worldview are correct, but it was never intended to be; it is simply an answer to one vitally important question. In order to form a complete worldview, libertarianism needs something else to inform its adherents about other issues, such as economics, religion, race relations, gender roles, and collective concepts.
Likewise, reaction does not offer a complete worldview in and of itself. Much like conservatism, which favors the status quo rather than a status quo ante, reaction has no consistent definition because the nature of both the status quo and the status quo ante are dependent upon time and place. For example, a reactionary in 1995 Russia might seek to restore the Soviet Union, while a reactionary in 1795 France might seek to restore the Bourbon dynasty to the throne. In order to form a complete worldview, reaction needs something else to inform its adherents about the nature of the mistakes which occurred in the past so that they can understand how to get society back on the correct path.

It is in these senses that reaction completes libertarianism and vice versa. And complete each other they should, because if they do not, other ideologies will do so. If libertarianism will not inform the reactionary about what mistakes are in need of correction, then something else will. If reaction will not inform the libertarian about issues other than the acceptable use of force, then something else will. Let us examine what happens if reaction or libertarianism gets combined with something else.

Reaction Without Libertarianism

If reaction is not combined with libertarianism, then it will be combined with some ideology which accepts initiation of the use of force as legitimate. This has resulted in a dark and bloody history of authoritarian statism, from the emperors and kings of old to the more recent fascist governments. The amount of death and destruction that this has caused is second only among political ideologies to its leftist counterpart of communism. Even less extreme non-libertarian combinations with reaction can lead to ruin, though such ruin takes the form of slow economic and cultural decay rather than violent domestic suppression and foreign wars. The most common of these forms is that of reactionary populism, which tends to surface once in a generation or so. The primary problem with reactionary populism is that it tries to maintain welfare statism while seeking to return to traditional moral values, as its adherents do not understand that welfare statism is the method by which traditional moral values have been undermined. By subsidizing practitioners of degenerate behavior at the expense of people of good character, reactionary populists only produce more of the problems they claim to want to solve. As Hoppe explains[1],

By relieving individuals of the obligation to provide for their own income, health, safety, old age, and children’s education, the range and temporal horizon of private provision is reduced, and the value of marriage, family, children, and kinship relations is lowered. Irresponsibility, shortsightedness, negligence, illness and even destructionism (bads) are promoted, and responsibility, farsightedness, diligence, health and conservatism (goods) are punished.”

Non-libertarian combinations with reaction can also lead to state-mandated discrimination on a basis of unsubstantiated prejudice rather than any biological or cultural justification which may arise among private individuals or communities. Such activities weaken an economy and encourage internal strife between the different subgroups within a geographical area, as armies tend to go where goods do not, and vice versa. (This, of course, is in the rational self-interest of those who wield power in a reactionary authoritarian regime, as those who fight amongst themselves are less able to overthrow the government.)

Libertarianism Without Reaction

If libertarianism is not combined with reaction, then it will be combined with some ideology which actively promotes vices as though they were virtuous behaviors, as opposed to one which condemns degeneracy while stopping short of supporting initiatory force to stamp it out. This has resulted in a leftist infiltration of libertarian groups, complete with social justice warriorism, egalitarianism, hedonism, and other associated ills. The amount of confusion that this has caused is immense, and it is a major reason why libertarianism has failed to gain mainstream acceptance. When people seeking a reprieve from state oppression and violence encounter a movement of people who seem to believe that anything drug-related is inherently libertarian, standards of public morality are manifestations of rape culture and patriarchy, and using one’s private property rights and freedom of association for politically incorrect purposes is somehow anti-libertarian, they frequently decide not to take seriously such a movement as an avenue for the change they seek, and they are not wrong about that.

While the toleration of vices is required by the non-aggression principle as long as said vices do not lead to assaults upon people or destruction of their property, there is a difference between tolerance and encouragement. A successful libertarian civilization must have a well-functioning market economy and be capable of both stopping common criminality and repelling external invasions. Those who abuse drugs, engage in sexual promiscuity, gamble excessively, and so forth may not be directly harming anyone other than themselves, but these behaviors practiced frequently on a large scale not only fail to make a successful libertarian civilization, but endanger its continued existence and flourishing by weakening its members and attracting people who will fake being a libertarian for their own selfish ends while undermining the community.

While it may be unpleasant when bigots use private property rights and freedom of association to discriminate against people, it is better to have bigots within libertarianism than outside of it for two reasons. First, if bigots truly become libertarians, then they must start adhering to the non-aggression principle. This means that they would have to stop initiating the use of force in pursuit of their bigotry, as well as stop asking the state to do so on their behalf. Second, the presence of openly bigoted people has the welcome effect of repulsing social justice warriors.

Another negative side effect from non-reactionary combinations with libertarianism is an autistic sort of hyper-individualism. The thinking goes that because one is an individualist, one can no longer recognize groups or make collective judgments, even in dire situations where ideal libertarian solutions are not currently available. (The reader who had this kind of thought two or three paragraphs ago should consider oneself diagnosed.) The next step in this line of thinking is to believe that anyone who dares to do so is racist/sexist/etc. But this leads nowhere good, as inaction in the face of very anti-libertarian threats can cause far more damage in the long run than would an emergency makeshift which is less than optimal from a principled libertarian standpoint.

Finally, without reaction, libertarianism lacks a certain driving motivation. From a certain perspective, libertarianism is the most ancient and fundamental form of reaction. (One could attempt to argue that atheism could be a more ancient and fundamental form of reaction than libertarianism, but such an argument fails because statism is ultimately a form of religious belief, thus making libertarianism a necessary prerequisite for atheism.) Taken to its logical conclusion, libertarianism requires anarchy and views the creation of both ancient city-states and modern nation-states as a societal error. Recalling that a defining feature of reaction is a belief that a societal error was made at some point in the past which must be corrected before society can properly advance, this provides an impetus to do the hard work of correcting such errors that non-reactionary perspectives do not provide as well, if at all.

Conclusion

As Hoppe explains[2],

“The relationship between libertarianism and conservatism is one of praxeological compatibility, sociological complementarity, and reciprocal reinforcement.”

As shown above, the same is true of libertarianism and reaction; they are pieces of a whole. Combining one or the other with something else leads to disaster. Libertarians should be reactionary, and reactionaries should be libertarians.

References:

  1. Hoppe, Hans-Hermann (2001). Democracy: The God That Failed. p. 195

  2. Hoppe, p. 202

The Libertarian Case Against Trump

On Jan. 24, Christopher Cantwell published an article arguing that libertarians should support Donald Trump in the 2016 election. In this rebuttal, I will show on a point-by-point basis how the case for supporting Trump is flawed.

It is true that democracy is a terrible system of governance. To quote Hans-Hermann Hoppe, it is a soft variant of communism, and only rarely in the history of ideas has it been taken for anything else. But because this system is almost certainly not going to be abolished before November 2016, someone will almost certainly be elected President of the United States. According to Cantwell, this leaves a libertarian with four options:

  1. Support a candidate who will do things which are unlibertarian, but is less harmful than the other candidates.
  2. Support a candidate who will do things which are so unlibertarian that society will be irreparably harmed and the government will collapse that we might rule the wasteland.
  3. Support a libertarian candidate who has absolutely no chance of winning.
  4. Renounce elections as unprincipled, wield zero influence, and remain in a powerless echo chamber of libertarian autism.

Cantwell argues for the first option, and expresses contempt for the latter three. There is another option, but let us deal with these four first by exploring the problems with the first option and the benefits of the next three. By engaging in the political process to support a candidate, one helps to legitimize the political system in the eyes of onlookers as a means of affecting libertarian change. Supporting Trump as the best of a bunch of bad candidates, or as the best candidate with a reasonable chance of winning a presidential election, is just typical “lesser of two evils” nonsense extended to a larger number of candidates. Also, any money donated to or effort expended for Trump’s political candidacy is money and effort that cannot be put to another use. In other words, focus put on politics is focus lost to anti-politics. Who knows what innovations that increase liberty by creating a way to ignore or fight the state will be lost because the efforts needed for those innovations were instead put toward the Trump campaign?

On the other hand, supporting a candidate whose policies are so bad that they will collapse the system could make the necessary revolution more likely. To quote from the Declaration of Independence, mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. While this may seem to be a pernicious deed in the moment, electing the worst candidates over a period of time could be the best long-term use of the political system by libertarians if it makes the revolution occur sooner. There is also the matter that states always collapse in time because people inevitably fall victim to their perverse incentives and steer the system toward ruin, so this outcome will occur eventually regardless of election results absent a libertarian revolution.

Supporting the Libertarian Party candidate in 2016 is not necessarily a worthless endeavor, especially if the election results are favorable enough to ease ballot access efforts in 2020, when a well-known anarchist activist plans to run. Even though victory would still be nearly impossible, such a campaign has the potential to convert more people to libertarian thought than even the Ron Paul presidential campaigns, and that is the most useful role that the Libertarian Party can play.

When one votes, one is helping to impose violent rulers upon peaceful people and give the appearance of legitimacy to institutions which deserve none. Voters are effectively asking a particular person who seeks to violently dominate society to command government agents to commit actions on their behalf which would be considered criminal by any objective standard, and which are considered criminal if an ordinary person commits them. The idea that voting can be an act of self-defense is false because voting harms bystanders who are not innocent shields. Also, renouncing elections as unprincipled need not result in wielding zero influence and remaining in a powerless echo chamber of libertarian autism. It depends upon what one does instead of voting on Election Day. If one sits at home and rants online in a libertarian chat room, then this will occur. But if one goes out to the polls not to participate in the election, but to protest against statism in general and democracy in particular, then there is an opportunity to engage with and convert new people to libertarian thought.

Finally, there is one more basic option to consider:

  1. Use force to shut down polling places and repel voters from them.

Because voting is an aggressive act, using force to stop it is morally justifiable. But it is tactically unwise on three counts. First, given the number of polling places, the manpower and resources needed to shut down each one, the possibility of alternative polling places, the length of early voting periods, and the possibility of voting by mail, it is safe to say that the election will continue despite any such efforts. Second, if libertarians actually had the means to stop a presidential election by force in just some parts of the nation, then it would be far more effective to use force to expel government agents from our lands and continue to use force to resist any government agents, terrorists, warlords, mafiosos, or common criminals that attempt to cause trouble afterward. Third, using force against voters and election personnel is likely to bring people into the fight between anarchists and statists on the statist side, as they will view the revolutionaries as an existential threat which must be quashed rather than a movement which they could join.

On the issue of dealing with aggressors, it is necessary to use both force and reason. One has a right to defend oneself by escalating the use of force as far as necessary to subdue the aggressors. After this is done, one should ready one’s argumentation ethics and denounce the aggressors as moral criminals in order to justify one’s use of force to one’s peers. The same must be done regardless of whether the aggressors consist of a lone common criminal, all government agents in a geographical area, or anything in between.

The crux of Cantwell’s argument for supporting Donald Trump is that years of arguing for revolution have proven fruitless because there are prerequisites for revolution which have yet to be met, and Trump will help to meet those prerequisites, the most important of which is the suppression of the political left. While it is true that left-wing influence is threatening the very survival of humanity, we must not be blind to threats to liberty from the right-wing. Ludwig von Mises wrote of European fascism in 1927, “It cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has, for the moment, saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history.” Immediately afterward, he wrote, “But though its policy has brought salvation for the moment, it is not of the kind which could promise continued success. Fascism was an emergency makeshift. To view it as something more would be a fatal error.” Mises would learn the hard way just what a fatal error this was, as it was ultimately fascists who forced him out of his academic position in Vienna and away to America to basically start over at the age of 60. He would go on to write Omnipotent Government in 1944, which remains one of the best anti-authoritarian works ever penned.

While the desire to do something besides making calls for revolution that land on deaf ears is certainly understandable, the installation of reactionary figures atop the democratic statist apparatus has been similarly fruitless. All historical examples have ended in failure for a variety of reasons. The reactionaries can over-correct, taking society backward beyond the point at which they believe mistakes were made, causing needless damage in the process; they can take society off of one wrong path and put it onto another, even worse path; or they can make changes only to lose power and see their changes reversed by a counter-reactionary movement. Most importantly, as Cantwell correctly recognizes, democracies inherently move leftward over time. The deep state is generally impervious to elections. Never has there been a reactionary movement that could achieve its goals and maintain them against attempts at reversal. The aforementioned failures also suggest that supporting Trump could be the second option listed above rather than the first one.

A useful metaphor for the appeal of a figure like Trump among anarcho-capitalists may be found in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. While Tolkien always strongly held that his works should not be seen as a metaphor for anything, there is scarcely a better metaphor in all of literature for state power than The One Ring, and Tolkien self-identifies as an anarchist in his letters. What Sauron expected was for a champion of men to wear the Ring in battle against him, and he knew that his vast military might could overwhelm the forces of men, take the Ring, and restore his full power to him. He could not foresee that the forces of good would have Frodo Baggins to sneak the Ring into Mount Doom to destroy it there until it was too late. But this almost did not happen. Had Faramir chosen to take the Ring from Frodo when they met in Osgiliath, the former outcome would have eventually occurred. Those who seek to wield state power against the leftist enemy through Trump are playing the part of Faramir, and they risk making the terrible mistake that Faramir avoided. The state itself is the primary problem; to instead try to use its power against the leftists who currently use it does nothing to prevent its power from eventually falling back into their hands, as it always has.

Cantwell mentions several behaviors as social negatives; drug use, sexual promiscuity, feminism, homosexuality, and racial and cultural diversity. But for many centuries, these behaviors were discouraged not by the market, but by theocratic states and the religions enforced by them. There are many examples of other societies throughout history where such behaviors were common, although one could argue that such societies experienced turmoil more frequently on average. Free markets would not necessarily discourage such behaviors; they would only prevent them from running rampant, as there would be no entity that could force people to associate or integrate against their wills or force the economic consequences of unbridled degeneracy onto the rest of society, as states do. This would mean that people would either have to learn to handle their vices or be destroyed by them, which would have a positive effect on a civilization.

While Donald Trump does offset leftist influence to a greater extent than anyone else in recent memory, this has been accomplished solely by his presence as a presidential candidate and public figure. He need not win the presidency in order to do this. Now that he has proven that the politically correct media machine is a paper tiger and the cuckservative and cuckertarian establishment has been repeatedly discredited, other candidates and public figures can and do speak uncomfortable truths without fear.

It is true that absent a democracy, we are left with a choice between anarchism and unelected government. But as Cantwell previously recognized, “A 17th century British monarchy may seem preferable by comparison (to democracy), but we can look at countries like North Korea to get our measure of liberty in a modern dictatorship, and cross that option off of our list.” This is because there are two factors of importance in citizen response to government: voice and exit. The reactionary seeks a system of no voice and free exit, and a world full of micro-nations operating in this manner would certainly be preferable to the current system of democratic nation-states, which offers only an illusion of voice coupled with significant barriers to exit. But this is not the likely outcome of a collapse of democracy that does not also collapse the statist system. The likely result of no voice and no exit is the worst of all possible worlds. At least in a stateless world guided by the likes of Cato, Reason, and C4SS, the market could sort out their nonsense and return us to better practices. To quote Cantwell, “Anarcho-capitalism does not require any number of people to agree with it, only that the system of coercion impeding it be rendered ineffective. Remove the systemic coercion, and economics will take care of the rest.”

The idea that the left should face political opposition from a true right-wing movement is appealing on its face, as this would make leftists deal with a political threat rather than focus their attacks solely upon libertarianism. But state power need not be used for this. A resurgence of right-wing libertarianism would be sufficient to repel the toxic influence of the new crop of left-libertarians, and Cantwell’s own efforts on this front have been quite valuable. Also, the danger of the right-wing movement coming to power and inflicting its own brand of statism upon us cannot be ignored.

To conclude, the struggle for liberty is a local, anti-political effort. Looking for a strongman to save us will only lead to further ruin, even if that ruin is of a different sort. Bleak though the outlook is at this point, the path to a free society is revolution or bust.

The Not-So-Current Year: 2015 In Review

Though the specific demarcation of the passage from one year into another is a rather arbitrary social construct, it does provide a useful annual period for self-examination and remembrance. Now that 2015 has entered the history books, let us take a look back at a year’s worth of essays and review the not-so-current year.

In December 2014, an assassination of two NYPD officers prompted many libertarians to signal hard against the use of force against agents of the state. I decided to argue the opposing case. The harassment of the Meitiv family by Child Protective Services prompted another such article. Julian Adorney resolved that good government police exist, and I responded by explaining why this is impossible. I used another NYPD incident to argue that when government agents and common criminals fight, we should pull for no one. When Tremaine Wilbourn killed a police officer during a traffic stop in Memphis, Tenn, I wrote a list of observations on the event which mostly follow the aforementioned articles.

Many libertarians praise decentralization, and rightly so. But it is neither good nor evil in and of itself. It can be used for good or evil ends, and I explored the latter.

On Burns night, I observed that a proper haggis was unavailable in the United States and found that as usual, the state is to blame. Staying on the subject of food, economically illiterate researchers blamed Walmart for causing obesity, and I explained why this is fallacious.

The 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz gave cause to examine how such an atrocity could be carried out without the state. The answer, of course, is that it would be all but impossible.

Entering February, I allowed my cynicism to wax to the point of formalizing it as a razor. It could use more detailing and strengthening, which is a project for a later time. I used the razor to explain why the Obama administration might want to disarm elderly people.

Alleged Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht was convicted on February 4 and sentenced on May 29. I made lists of observations on both of these occasions. Some people were none too happy with the state’s treatment of Ulbricht, and their displeasure got them in hot water. This occasion also merited a list of observations.

The movie American Sniper did well at the box office, but a metaphor therein was left incomplete. I decided to complete the analogy of sheep, sheepdogs, and wolves by adding farmers of human livestock to the mix.

A video by Stefan Molyneux about two different types of statists compared them to warriors and wizards. I made the case that countering the state requires libertarians to be both character classes at once.

Ron Paul made a video appearance at the International Students For Liberty Conference, but some attendees decided to interrupt this by reading an open letter to him which was filled with leftist entryist nonsense. I wrote an open letter against them which gained wide recognition and helped run some of the people involved out of libertarian circles. It remains one of my proudest moments as a writer.

At the end of February, Republicans tried to use brinkmanship to force spending cuts, which failed miserably due to their track record of caving at the last minute. I wrote a list of observations on the event.

On March 9, I published my most popular article to date, which is also one of my most shallow, choir-preaching works. The correlation between the two can be most depressing at times. At any rate, here are 25 statist propaganda phrases and some concise rebuttals.

Several commenters have told me that I am at my best when I provide a sound defense for an idea that most people find to be outrageous. I did this several times in 2015, defending the killing of innocent shields in certain circumstances, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, letting Iran develop a nuclear deterrent, and the replacement of democratic elections with jousts to the death.

I went on a rebuttal streak in the spring of 2015. President Obama proposed that voting be made mandatory, and I argued the case against this. Michael Eliot argued that a violent revolution is not the correct strategy for creating a free society, and that the use of methods such as seasteading will be more successful. I explained why this is false. Walter Block argued in favor of Rand Paul’s presidential campaign, and I demonstrated why he is not a good choice. Austin Petersen effectively made a case against libertarianism itself, and I rebutted it.

Paul Krugman delivered some rather standard talking points about public goods, and I showed why they are wrong. I revisited the subject later in the year.

Rolling Stone decided to go ahead with a completely false story about campus rape, and did nothing beyond wrist-slapping to those involved in creating and editing the story. They also defended the ideas behind the story, with which I took great issue. Another sex-related story occurred on April 21 when the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration resigned due to a prostitution scandal that occurred on her watch. I explained why we should not be surprised, and should actually expect more of such behavior. The purity spiral of campus feminism has grown to such an extent that even left-wing feminist professors are not immune. Rape accusation culture struck once more at Amherst College, and the victim took the university to court.

Baltimore police officers arrested Freddie Gray, who died one week later as a result of injuries sustained during the arrest. Riots ensued, and I wrote a list of observations on the event.

Charles Murray published a book detailing a novel strategy for fighting the regulatory state: overwhelm it with civil disobedience, create a legal fund to defend victims of regulation, and start treating government fines as an insurable hazard. I argued that this would fail, but that it needs to be tried anyway.

The prohibition of excessive bail and fines, as well as cruel and unusual punishment, is a much-revered part of the United States Constitution. I argued that it should not be.

Dylann Roof carried out a mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, and I wrote a list of observations on the event.

Late June is Supreme Court season, and they delivered at least two bad decisions in 2015. First, they ruled very narrowly in favor of raisin farmers, but left the rights-violating practice of eminent domain intact. Then, they crammed same-sex marriage down the throats of all Americans.

Litecoin exchange rates suddenly spiked in early July. I took an educated guess at why, but it ended up being pure speculation.

Turmoil in Greece threatened to boil over into a default or even a Grexit. I took a deep look into the situation and concluded that only anarchy can fix the problems there.

Two seemingly disparate stories concerning Planned Parenthood and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine had a common thread: there is no such thing as non-lethal aid to an organization that conducts lethal operations.

I wrote a three-part series about fascism and communism in America, as well as how a nation can be both. Although I lated discovered that Lawrence Britt does not appear to be a real person, I found the 14-point list of fascist characteristics to be sound, so I did not revise the article.

A problem which is frequently cited as a reason why we must have a state is the problem of pollution. I dealt with the issues of water ownership and pollution in order to show why the state cannot solve the problem of pollution.

In one of my more controversial articles, I argued that Vester Flanagan, the man who murdered a reporter and a cameraman in Roanoke, Va., was a model social justice warrior. Examiner decided to pull it for offending their audience, but you can find it here.

Everyone knows that the Libertarian Party is not exactly a bastion of excellent strategic thinkers. I decided to offer them help, and a response to my essay advocating an alternate strategy is also worth reading.

Liberty Mutual created a series of advertisements that air regularly in my area, and they are full of economic fallacies. They annoyed me enough to dedicate an article to debunking them.

Reservation scalping occurred at Disney World restaurants, which outraged many people. I applied Walter Block’s reasoning for defending ticket scalpers to argue against the outrage.

September 11 always brings about discussions on security. I argued that there can be no such thing; only temporary and imperfect protection from particular dangers.

The term ‘cuckservative’ arose from alt-right circles to describe those who are insufficiently conservative, selling out their constituents, and/or acting against their own rational self-interests. I created the term ‘cuckertarian‘ to describe a similar problem among libertarians. Another problem with the libertarian movement that I addressed is the embrace of hedonism when libertarianism only requires that we not use aggressive violence to stamp out non-violent degeneracy.

After several years in prison for tax resistance, Irwin Schiff passed away. I wrote a list of observations on the event that gained praise from his son Peter.

I belatedly refuted Matt Zwolinski’s six reasons for rejecting the non-aggression principle. I had meant to do so when he published his piece back in April 2013, but other work took precedence and it languished in development hell. Next, I dealt with Youliy Ninov’s arguments against anarcho-capitalism in what is my most verbose article to date.

Islamic terrorists attacked Beirut and Paris on November 12 and 13, respectively. I wrote a list of observations on the events.

Many libertarians misunderstand immigration and borders, so after several pro-open-borders articles published in quick succession by other authors, I tried to set them straight.

Black Friday is revered by most libertarians as a celebration of free-market capitalism. I explained why this reverence is somewhat misplaced.

Robert Dear attacked a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., killing three people and wounding nine others. I made the case that although the use of force against Planned Parenthood is defensive in nature, it is frequently impractical and counterproductive.

The success of the Donald Trump presidential campaign, as well as growing support for it in libertarian and reactionary circles, led me to examine the phenomena. I concluded that Trumpism is not a libertarian form of reaction, though we may have some common enemies.

My final article of 2015 addressed the common phrase ‘give back to the community.’ In short, it is communist nonsense that must be rejected.

I began work on another case against a constitutional amendment, but it was not completed for publishing before the end of 2015, so it will appear first in next year’s review.

All in all, it was an interesting year full of occasions to make sharp libertarian arguments. May 2016 bring more of the same. Happy New Year!

America is both fascist and communist? An explanation

In the first two parts of this series, we looked at the 14 defining characteristics of fascism and the 10 measures outlined in the Communist Manifesto, and analyzed their presence in the United States of America in 2015. The results are that America is roughly 74 percent of the way toward fascism and 64 percent of the way toward communism. But historically, the rulers who governed under these two ideologies were mortal enemies, causing tens of millions of deaths in both war and democide. How can a country be both fascist and communist? Let us see.

First, there is the historical explanation. Of the two, communism has the earliest historical origin, with elements of communist thought being present from antiquity. But modern communism, as formulated by Marx and Engels, first achieved power in the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia. While fascism arguably had a precedent in the Roman Empire, modern fascism grew in large part as a reaction against communism, which partly explains the common placement of fascism on the far right. However, this is not entirely accurate because the fasci in Italy were similar to guilds or syndicates, and most of them were on the political left. It was only with Mussolini’s formation of the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento in 1919, which would later become the National Fascist Party in 1921, that the ideas of syndicalism would be blended with ultra-nationalism to create what is now considered a right-wing statist ideology. In America, the closest analog to fascism at that time was the progressive movement under the leadership of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt from the Democratic Party, and Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover from the Republican Party. State power grew enormously under the leadership of these presidents, and most of the government programs and laws that make America’s communist and fascist scores so high were enacted with their signatures. After World War II, the progressives sought to hide their similarities with fascists. They denounced the eugenicist positions they had formerly embraced and redefined nationalist socialism as right-wing while continuing to define their more international socialism as left-wing.

Next, there is the horseshoe theory proposed by Jean-Pierre Faye. It says that the far left and the far right share an authoritarian outlook and call for expansions of state power, and therefore have much more in common than adherents of either would care to admit. Despite being commonly considered to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum, fascism and communism are actually quite similar in their results. This is because the common aspects of both are the most influential ones; both ideologies reject individualism, free markets, absolute private property, democratic voting, and religions that oppose the state, while promoting centralized government, one-party totalitarian rule, a planned economy, cronyism, government as the agent of change in society, the use of rallies and propaganda to promote the establishment, and the use of force to achieve political and social goals. As such, a country can be 60 to 80 percent in line with both communist and fascist ideology without completely falling into one or the other.

Finally, there is the political bell curve model proposed by Thomas Knapp. (My version of his diagram of this serves as the picture for this article.) In this model, political ideologies are positioned on a bell curve based upon their left-right position as well as their level of support for initiatory force. In this diagram, fascists and communists find themselves together at the top of the curve, as both have no qualms with the use of force to enact their ideologies. Rather high on each side of the curve are the mainstream Republicans and Democrats in America, with classical liberals and mainstream Libertarians residing lower on each side. The tails are occupied by classical anarchists and anarcho-capitalists, each of whom are completely opposed to state power, though for much different reasons.

All of these explanations are plausible, and together they create a convincing case that a nation can be both communist and fascist.

A Measure Of Fascism In America

The word “fascism” is generally used today as a pejorative to attack any idea that a speaker happens to dislike. But this word has a specific meaning and a specific historical context. It refers to an authoritarian, nationalistic system of government and social organization that is usually considered to be far right-wing. Historically, it was most popular in the 1930s, when the regimes of Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco were in their primes. Later examples include Indonesia under Suharto, Bolivia under Banzer, and Chile under Pinochet. In practice, fascism combines the ideas of collectivism, mercantilism, nationalism, (statist) syndicalism, and uniculturalism into a system where business leaders and political rulers work together to create public policies that benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else.

To what extent is the United States of America in 2015 a fascist nation? In order to determine this, a means of measurement is needed. Lawrence Britt has studied fascist regimes and found that there are 14 characteristics which all of them have in common to some degree. Let us examine these characteristics and assign each of them a value on a ten-point scale, with zero being completely absent and 10 being omnipresent. Let us also see how many are trending upward, trending downward, and holding steady. The final score on a 140-point scale will give a useful measure of the degree of fascism in America.

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottoes, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

In America, patriotic mottoes, slogans, symbols, songs, and flags have been part of the culture since the founding of the nation, with the frequency of their use varying from time to time. This reached a fever pitch immediately following the September 11 attacks, and while it has backed off since then, the sense of nationalism in America remains strong, perhaps the strongest of all nations in which the state does not directly force people into such observances.

Score: 8/10, Trend: Steady

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

After 9/11, the Bush regime and their lapdogs in the right-wing media were largely successful in convincing people that torture and indefinite detention of those who were not convicted of crimes was justifiable for national security reasons. The Obama regime has taken some positive steps on these matters, but has murdered far more people with drone strikes than his predecessor. The left-wing media has largely given Obama a pass on this. At home, the War on Drugs has placed many innocent people into prison for decades. While the American people are becoming more opposed to such abuses of power, little real change has occurred.

Score: 8/10, Trend: Slightly Up

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

America has a dark history of this. Over the centuries, Native Americans, Blacks, Mexicans, Irish, Eastern Europeans, Germans, Jews, Japanese, communists, and Muslims have all been perceived as common threats or foes to be contained or eliminated. More than once, the state has been able to engage in wars due to yellow journalism or false flag operations successfully creating a new enemy du jour. With the War on Terrorism, the state has found its holy grail: a war which can be made indefinite against an omnipresent foe which it can never seem to vanquish, not that it would want to.

Score: 10/10, Trend: Steady

4. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

The United States has the largest military budget in the world, and spends more money on its military than the next seven nations combined. Despite a stagnant economy and decaying infrastructure, 20 percent of the federal budget is devoted to the military. This is equal to the combined budgets of Medicare and Medicaid, and is nearly as much as the budget for Social Security. To be critical of the military as an institution is considered to be nearly as bad as aiding the enemy by the lapdog media, as is criticizing the glamorization of soldiers and military service. Though a minority is becoming skeptical of this situation, no changes appear to be coming in the near future.

Score: 10/10, Trend: Steady

5. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

The United States is one of the least sexist countries in the world. While the number of males in positions of political power outnumber females by about four to one, the United States ranks 94th out of 190 countries in this regard as of June 1, 2015. Over the last few decades, traditional gender roles have become less rigid. Divorce has become easier to obtain, with fault requirements being mostly removed as of 2015. Abortions were made legal nationwide in 1973, and same-sex marriage was made legal nationwide in 2015. A general hostility has developed toward government intervention into the family institution.

Score: 3/10, Trend: Down

6. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in wartime, is very common.

While the press in America is not directly controlled by the government, it is indirectly controlled. Government regulation and pro-state media personalities perpetuate a lapdog establishment that echoes government propaganda and eschews authentic investigative journalism. Those who would challenge this status quo by asking uncomfortable questions frequently find themselves victimized by slave-on-slave violence as the privileged establishment seeks to preserve its access to the halls of power and its usefulness in informing the public of government activities. Censorship is common with regard to certain words and topics which are not used or discussed on mainstream programming, especially during wartime, although this is mostly done without direct government involvement. Before and during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the establishment media consistently towed the government line and censored certain images, such as war deaths. As a result, alternative and independent media sources are growing in popularity and trust in the establishment media is at an all-time low, but they have yet to displace the establishment media.

Score: 8/10, Trend: Slightly Down

7. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

At least since the First Red Scare following the Russian Revolution and continuing through World War II, the Cold War, and the War on Terrorism, the government has used fear of external enemies as a justification for its activities. National security is considered by many right-wing (and some left-wing) politicians to be the most important role of the state. Though many people believe this has gone too far in the wake of the Snowden leaks, little meaningful change has occurred.

Score: 8/10, Trend: Steady

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

There is a tradition of separation of church and state in America, but this is only true in the sense that there is no official state religion. Atheists, agnostics, and religious skeptics are few and far between in public office. Appeals to the tenets of Christianity, the most common religion in America, are frequently used by politicians to advance their agendas, even when those tenets are diametrically opposed to such agendas. Christian theories of just war play a significant role in American conservatism, and Christian ideas about helping the poor are used by American liberals to argue for government welfare programs. Religiosity among the American people is declining, but these conditions will likely remain stable for another generation or so.

Score: 7/10, Trend: Down

9. Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

Since soon after the Constitution was ratified, business interests have played a financial role in determining which candidates for office are successful in elections. With the Citizens United decision, this has become more open and somewhat more blatant. Of course, those who invest in political campaigns expect a return on that investment, and research shows that they get it in spades. A political aristocracy has been present throughout much of American history, with many candidates for office being related to prior office holders. The 2016 presidential election is shaping up to be more of the same.

Score: 9/10, Trend: Up

10. Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

While labor unions have not been eliminated entirely in America, they have been declining in the private sector for quite some time. In 2014, only 6.6 percent of private sector workers were union members, the lowest level since 1932. However, government sector unions are much stronger, with 35.7 percent of government workers belonging to a union in 2014. While national syndicalism is a major part of fascist theory, it has only had minor influence in America in the form of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) labor union.

Score: 6/10, Trend: Slightly Up

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

In America, the government is quite dependent on the intellectual classes to propagandize the people, and is therefore rather accommodating to them, to the point of creating a bubble in higher education that has benefited the intellectual classes at the expense of everyone else during the postwar period. That being said, it is becoming more common for professors and other academics to be attacked for their views. The rise in influence of social justice warriors is causing disdain for free expression to trend upward.

Score: 4/10, Trend: Slightly Up

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forgo civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

While many police accountability activists in America say that “badges don’t grant extra rights,” the fact is that in practice, they do. Police routinely engage in activities that would land an ordinary citizen in prison, and when they are investigated, it is either by an internal review process or a grand jury examination, each of which tend to be highly sympathetic to the police due to conflicts of interest. While there is no national police force with virtually unlimited power, the DEA, FBI, and Secret Service are quite powerful and are getting stronger. After 9/11, many people were willing to overlook police abuses, but this is changing. However, many efforts toward police accountability are being blunted by distractions, such as a focus on racism.

Score: 8/10, Trend: Slightly Up

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

There is a revolving door in Washington, D.C. between being a member of Congress or federal employee and being a lobbyist for special interest groups. These special interest groups bribe politicians and regulators on behalf of wealthy business interests to write laws and regulations that favor their interests at the expense of competing businesses and individual citizens. Many of these laws and regulations work to shield business owners from civil and criminal liability. While it is uncommon for American rulers to steal national treasures, there is a tendency for the government to appropriate natural resources and sell access to them. This shows no signs of improving anytime soon.

Score: 7/10, Trend: Up

14. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

While there is no proof that American elections are a complete sham, there are clear cases of manipulation. While smear campaigns tend to be waged by each major political party against the other, assassination of opposition candidates is almost never seriously considered, let alone attempted. That being said, the two major parties have rigged election laws to keep third parties from having any reasonable chance of winning. Over the past few decades, gerrymandering of political district boundaries has been used to create districts which are either reliably Democratic or reliably Republican, with the result being that the fringe elements of each party are able to put people into office. The judiciary was arguably used to manipulate the 2000 presidential election, and courts usually act to control elections by siding against claims of unfairness by minor political parties. With the introduction of top-two primaries in recent years, third party and independent candidates are being excluded further.

Score: 7/10, Trend: Slightly Up

Overall, America gets a score of 103 out of 140, meaning that America is 73.6 percent of the way toward fascism and away from liberty. While the trends on the various characteristics of fascism are moving in different directions, the overall trend is slightly upward, meaning that the score could advance at a rate of one or two points per year.